Tony McCoy: I want to go out at the top

The greatest jump jockey of all time, Tony McCoy, yesterday made the shock announcement he is to retire from racing at the end of the season.
Tony McCoy with Mr Mole, his most recent winner at Newbury. Picture: PATony McCoy with Mr Mole, his most recent winner at Newbury. Picture: PA
Tony McCoy with Mr Mole, his most recent winner at Newbury. Picture: PA

Just minutes after Mr Mole gave McCoy his 200th winner of the season as Sire De Grugy unseated three out in an incident-packed Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury, the champion jockey told Channel 4 
Racing of his intention to stop riding.

Not seen since following up his Champion Chase success at Sandown last April, the Gary Moore-trained Sire De Grugy was sent off at odds-on but made a bad mistake four from home before parting company with Jamie Moore at the next.

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That left a simple task for Mr Mole, who will test his credentials at the top level in the two-mile championship next month.

All that was overshadowed, however, when McCoy revealed his retirement plan.

“It’s going to be the last time I ride 200 winners,” he said. “Having spoken to Dave [Roberts, agent] and JP McManus, I am going to be retiring at the end of the season.”

McCoy said: “I want to go out at top, I want to go out as champion jockey and it will be my 20th year if I can win the jockeys’ championship.

“I want to go out while I still enjoy riding and am still relatively at the top.”

His wife Chanelle said: “It’s a very big decision and one he has to live with, so he has to make it himself.”

The 40-year-old has been the retained jockey for owner JP McManus for ten years.

Richard Johnson, who has long had to play second-fiddle to McCoy in the jockeys’ championship, said: “It wasn’t the biggest shock in the world, I suppose, but it’s more set in concrete now.

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“There’ll be a few people relieved and will have a few more chances, but it’s a great loss to lose him from the weighing room.

“We all know we’ll get to that point sometime. It will be an even bigger shock after Sandown [end of the season] I suppose, but I’m sure we’ll still see him around the racecourse and his achievements will live on for a long time.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls said: “It’s a pleasure to have had anything to do with him and it was a peach of a ride he gave Mr Mole.

“He’s been a great ambassador for the sport and no one can say enough about him.It doesn’t surprise me totally as one day you have to make a decision. He’s probably decided that’s the right one, and everyone knows where they are. Everyone will miss him riding as he’s been such a legend, but you can’t go on forever.

“He’s still riding as well as he’s ever ridden and it’s probably the right time to go out.

“Toby Balding once told me to use him as claimer, that he was the best he ever had. I always remember those words.”

McCoy’s next ride after Mr Mole ended in a fall at the first from Goodwood Mirage, after which he walked away unscathed.

McCoy was 17 when he rode his first winner, Legal Steps, for Jim Bolger at Thurles in 1992, and rode his first winner in England aboard the Gordon Edwards-trained Chickabiddy at Exeter on 7 September, 1994.

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He will always be associated with former champion trainer Martin Pipe, with the pair teaming up for many famous days. Pipe said: “What a shock. I just said to him ‘about time!’.

“He’s been an absolute legend for racing, he’ll never be surpassed in anyone’s lifetime. He’s the best we’ve ever seen. His dedication to winning, it’s what it’s all about. He’s just so thorough and so competitive.”

McCoy started working with horses at the age of 13, working full-time after leaving school at 15.

He has been champion jockey 19 times, following his champion conditional jockey win at the age of 21 after riding 74 winners in the 1994-95 season.

His riding injuries have included broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collarbones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist, ankle and leg, plus a dislocated thumb and chipped teeth.

It took McCoy 15 attempts before sealing an elusive first victory in the Grand National aboard the gambled-on Don’t Push It in 2010, but he has won two Cheltenham Gold Cups, first with Mr Mulligan in 1997 and then on Synchronised in 2012.

In 2003 McCoy was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours then an OBE in 2010. He was BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, the first time a jockey had been awarded the honour.